Friday, February 19, 2010

India Remote Sensing Data Policy (continued)

Mr. Malay Adikhari's post on India's Remote Sensing Data Policy resulted in an interesting exchange of emails between Mr. Adikhari and Mr. Sumit Sen. They both agreed to let me post their exchange here.

Mr. Sen: Kevin, its interesting that you bring alive a long discussed debate. Of course there are some economic issues that make the ISRO dictated RSDP in India and a multinational service provider like Google, totally different species. Nevertheless since the point is made, let me also add the perspective unique to India, which faces major development challenges as well as the responsibility of being a fast growing economic power. The RSDP and most Indian polcies (see also the Open Series maps of SoI) have never considered the distinction between the vast majority of rural population which is deprived of even large scale maps or satellite images and the urban upper class who would rather pick up issues of privacy etc. The fundamental problem is "who are these policies for?" And surely an all encompassing policy will be as messy as the Indian political system, least to say that it may be difficult to find a champion for such a policy.

Mr. Adikhari: Dear All,
I would like to share some points in reply:
1. Who creates the Indian political system? It is we, the common people of India. Leaders are not coming outside from India. So instead of blaming political system, the attitude and mind set-up of Indians should be changed to welcome a dynamic policy whatever be its name.
2. Due to tremendous development of technology, the different types of users with the increasing numbers are coming in the Indian market. So it is very difficult to reply the question “who are these policies for?” But I agree that though all policies are ultimately for grassroot people of India but it is very difficult to implement the policy at the ground level. So sometimes though this question has answer but the Indians have doubt about the answer.
3. Another point is that people are blaming SOI. But if an organization has multidimensional role, it is not possible to satisfy every customers at any point of time. It is like that taking water from a bucket but the water level will remain the same. This is next to impossible. So the Government of India should revisit the role of SOI itself.
4. Issues of privacy etc. will come only when commercialization comes into the picture. India already reached that point. So whoever are the users, rural population or urban, they are purchasers of data from the market. What policies stated that do not matter, if any user is not satisfied of the data, the user has every right to go to court for the deficiency. Does the RSDP prepare for that?
5. Being a student of law, I am sorry to say that law technology nexus is very poor in India. Even the tremendous technological development is not attracted by the major part of the legal fraternity in India .This is one of the drawbacks to see India as a fast growing economic power

Mr. Sen: Some very strong points you have made but i dont understand to whom these replies are? Let me clarify that there has never been a blame game here. To state that a system is messy and complex is only a fact [1]

And also to identify "grassroot" people in India is big challenge in a democracy. Everyone is. Even with a vast divides of digital enablement, economic and literacy. So yes if they are for the grassroot people whom does these policies benifit? and for whom are these inconsequential?

The aspects of law and legal aspects are slightly different from policies. Some legal issues in geospatial data are well known [2,3] but have not figured in our cyber laws. They would, eventually and technology will play an important role as it has done in other nations[4].

with regards

1. Pranab Bardhan (2009). India and China: Governance Issues and Development. The Journal of Asian Studies, 68, pp 347-357

2. Onsrud, H.J. (1999) Liability in the Use of Geographic Systems and Geographic Data Sets. In Longley, P.A., M.F. Goodchild, D.J. Maguire, and D.W. Rhind, (Eds.), Geographic Information Systems: Principles, Techniques, Management, and Applications (New York: Wiley).

3. Onsrud, H.J. (1992) Evidence Generated from GIS. GIS Law, 1(3): 1-9

4 Onsrud, H.J. and X. Lopez (1998) Intellectual Property Rights in Disseminating Digital Geographic Data, Products, and Services: Conflicts and Commonalities among European Union and United States Approaches. In Masser, Ian and Francois Salge, (Eds.), European Geographic Information Infrastructures: Opportunities and Pitfalls (London: Taylor and Francis) 153-167

Mr. Adikhari: I would like to clarify my previous mail. I am not criticizing anybody. Your mails are excellent. What I am getting with interacting peoplesthat they are always criticizing politicians in each and every matter. But the politicians are elected by their votes.
SOI is always criticized for not providing the data easily. It is the old framework of SOI made by Government of India, for which people are not getting the services from them easily. So how SOI is responsible for delay ?

I fully agree with you regarding the policies for grassroot people.To detect the grassroot people is also a problem. But the Right to Information Act is so powerful that the many village people are using this weapon to get the happenings and realities in the top level. The Government of India itself is facing a lots of difficulties after its enactment. To whom does the policies benefit for ? And what benefit ? Your question must be answered by the concerned authority when some RTI application will be filed. Already NRSC (Hyderabad) people will start thinking about the RTI.

From International law, space law comes; spatial (geospatial) law from space law. But the geospatial law covers also cyber law. Yes, you are right that there is no combination of geospatial and cyber law in India. The legislating body must think it. Otherwise there will be misuse of data in India. Also it will not support the development of geospatial industry in India.

Thanks a lot for providing me the references

Monday, February 8, 2010

Spatial Law and Policy Update (February 8, 2010)

Those of you interested in the future of the Ordnance Survey - or other national mapping agencies - may be interested in reading this document. You will note that it requests comments on three proposals for the future of the OS and mapping data in the UK.

The Borings' lawsuit against Google continues - at least in part. This article does show how in a civil suit the extent of any damages sustained is often as important as being right or wrong.

I think that this article raises an interesting legal/policy issue. That is, if you regularly tweet your location to others, is it an invasion of your privacy if someone else tweets your location when you don't want them to?

Is poor and inaccurate data better than no data than all? Some police officers - and the citizens they protect - in Adelaide are probably asking this question.

I am very interested in learning more about this technology. In particular, I am interested in how accurate the monitors can be in determining the sources of methane, as this becomes much more important as, in the word's of the CEO of the company, "There's a big shift away from just scientific use for our technology to using it to meet regulatory requirements". Monitoring regulatory requirements should demand a much higher level of accuracy and timeliness.

Another example of the power of maps - this time in relation to the dispute over the border between Thailand and Cambodia.

I wonder if any companies collecting location data on customers are following efforts in the US by law enforcement to have a direct Web interface with Internet and email providers so as to expedite legal requests and responses (i.e. warrants, etc.)? If so, they may also consider taking a look at this study by the Department of Justice which highlights the growing use of such requests in connection with telephone records.

Much has been written about Apple's plan to ban location based advertising apps. However, as is often the case , I find Ed Parson's take to be the most insightful.

You may have wondered, as I have. whether a hacker could access your smart phone and track your location using the GPS in its device. According to this article, the answer is yes!

Guest Post - India's Remote Sensing Data Policy

In an effort to build an international community of those interested in spatial law and policy I have started inviting others to publish posts here on topics of interest to them. With that in mind, the following is a insightful post on India's Remote Sensing Data Policy by Malay Adhikari, of the NALSAR University of Law, Hyderabad. In it, he calls for the Indian government to revisit its Remote Sensing Data Policy.

In many countries, national security is a very crucial issue in the dissemination of geospatial data. This is true in India as well. However India’s data policy, the Remote Sensing Data Policy (RSDP), was issued in 2001 which is very old given the current availability of high-resolution (HR) geospatial data due to the tremendous advancement of technology. The RSDP restricts the dissemination of data less than 5.8m resolution, after that permission is required from the concerned authority. However the question is how relevant is this policy given that data less than this limit is available from other foreign companies. For example, compare Google Earth with the Indian earth observation portal, BHUVAN.

Given this background, what will be the solution?

One solution is sticking with RSDP and depriving the most people in India from the benefit of HR data. Another option is to follow the path of Google Earth. The second option is considered by some very dangerous to national security. But in the era of globalization, human security in general is as important as national security. Issues of human security include climate security, food security, economic security etc. Globalization brings all these securities at a common point and the importance of every issue has equal value to the common people. Therefore if HR data safeguards the other securities beside national security, the Government of India should think about revisiting the RSDP.

The one and only solution is that a strong Indian legal framework must be made for utilization of HR data in the public domain. If there is any misuse, the offender should face the highest punishment in India. Also the traditional mechanism of Indian judiciary should be changed to adjudicate such type of offence. Ultimately law will follow technology.

Please feel free to post any comments here or contact Malay directly at In addition, please contact me at if you wish to publish a post on the Spatial Law and Policy blog.